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opera

VFJO / MARIN / ACADEMY – FALSTAFF

Verdi

Ion Marin leads the VFJO and a cast of young talents from the Atelier Lyrique in the opera with which Verdi chose to crown his career : his comic masterpiece, Falstaff. 

Programme

GIUSEPPE VERDI (1813-1901)
Falstaff

Surtitles in English and French

Premiered in 1893, Falstaff was Verdi’s last opera, composed in his late seventies when he was the internationally celebrated king of Italian opera (27 of them under his belt), and very much a labour of love: a depiction (expressly not an opera buffa) of one of his favourite Shakespearean characters, Sir John Falstaff, created in partnership with Arrigo Boito, the librettist with whom he’d only just scored a Shakespearean triumph with Otello. Boito’s action is a distillation of The Merry Wives of Windsor, enhanced by further material from Henry IV parts I and II, recounting the ridiculous fat knight’s attempts to get at two men’s money by seducing their wives, Alice and Meg, who instead hoodwink and humiliate him with the help of Mistress Sprightly and Alice’s daughter, Nanetta – all while Nanetta simultaneously thwarts her father’s plans for her to marry wealthy Dr Caius, to be united with her handsome young lover, Fenton. Verdi’s score sounds more like the work of a young man, Boito’s fast-paced action painted via elegantly sprightly, ever-changing, blink-and-you’ve-missed-it melodies, musical cohesiveness coming via short repeated motifs, with longer-spun pieces eschewed until the finale, where pleasures include Nanetta’s exquisite Fairy Queen aria, ‘On the breath of a nimble breeze, fly, nimble spirits,’ and the brilliant closing fugal chorus, ‘All the world’s a joke.’ His colourful tone-painting meanwhile includes, in Act 1, cellos and piccolo playing four octaves apart as Falstaff complains that if he becomes thin then no one will love him; and in Act 3, high piccolo against four horns generating eerie tension as Mistress Quickly and Alice tell the ghostly tale of Herne’s Oak.